AARON YOUNG, mixed media
A graduate of Yale’s M.F.A. program, famous for turning out art jocks like Richard Serra, Aaron Young, 34, knows how to aestheticize macho aggression. A growling pit bull clamps onto a rope in his video Good Boy, and Young once filled a gallery with a revving motorbike’s tire prints and exhaust. “My work is an attack,” says the San Francisco native (and current New Yorker), who claims special inspiration from fellow West Coast artist Chris Burden (though Young has yet to shoot himself in front of gallerygoers). “He’s referring to approaches that were common in the sixties and seventies,” says MoMA and P.S. 1 curator Klaus Biesenbach, “but he is making them cutting-edge.” For his first solo show, Young hired a helicopter to train searchlights on the opening; look for more intimidating art in the Biennial, including a bronze sculpture of a boulder spray-painted locals only!
ANGELA STRASSHEIM, photography
C.S.I. meets Billy Graham in the domestic scenes of Angela Strassheim, 36, who was raised in a born-again Christian household in Minnesota. For her 2005 Marvelli Gallery solo called “Left Behind” (after the Evangelical book series), Strassheim shot family and friends in suspenseful, deliberative moments—a girl sprawled in a Christ-like pose on her canopy bed, a father combing the hair of his hollow-eyed son as they dress for church, even her grandmother in a coffin. Some scenes are staged, others (like the grandmother) real. “I was photographing in the morgue, and photographing a lot at home, and slowly finding a relationship between the two,” says Strassheim, who used to record autopsies for New York City. While at Yale in 2001, she helped with the caseload after 9/11. “None of the other students in art school wanted to see those pictures,” she recalls.
HANNA LIDEN, photography
In Hanna Liden’s photographs, masked, hooded figures wade through swamps and ride through the woods on horseback, like counselors-in-training at some goth summer camp. But these images have a painterly aspect (rooted in the Romantic Sublime) that separates them from horror-flick clichés, and “a keen and self-ironic intelligence that underpins the creepy hocus-pocus” (in the words of Artforum critic David Rimanelli, who also sees Liden as an artist to watch). “I’m influenced by the cinema of Ingmar Bergman and Werner Herzog; also old Northern European painting like Friedrich and Munch,” says the 29-year-old Swede. Liden shows at the Lower East Side gallery Rivington Arms (her sister, Klara Liden, made her own well-received debut at Reena Spaulings Fine Art last year) and is part of a tight-knit circle of downtown artists including Dash Snow and Emily Sundblad. This April, she’ll be inaugurating Rivington Arms’ new space on the Bowery.
ADAM MCEWEN, mixed media
While working for the Daily Telegraph, Oxford graduate Adam McEwen, 41, compiled obituaries for living figures—a gig he later exploited in his first solo at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery. There, in a show none-too-subtly titled “History is a Perpetual Virgin endlessly and repeatedly Deflowered by successive generations of Fucking Liars,” McEwen exhibited “obits” of Bill Clinton, Nicole Kidman, and Jeff Koons, offering a funny, morbid take on celebrity obsession. “Nicole Kidman is the only convincing Hollywood star today, but she’s clearly a freak. When you see her interviewed, it’s like she’s not even in control of her personality,” he says. At the Biennial, McEwen will show several obituaries, plus a large abstract Rorschach painting made with chewing gum; look for him again in mid-March at Bortolami Dayan, when the buzzed-about group show “Survivor” opens.
MARK BRADFORD, mixed media
Angeleno artists are popping up all over Chelsea, and they’re certainly well represented in this Biennial. Mark Bradford makes collaged Mondrian-esque grids from strips of posters he picks up on the streets of South L.A.—paying homage to the sprawl of his city and the cacophony of ours. “I’m drawn to collage because it’s the immediate juxtaposition of activity. In the city, I have that same feeling—Nigerian business next to Korean business next to Jewish business,” says the 44-year-old CalArts graduate, who’s been in several shows at the Studio Museum in Harlem and had solos at Sikkema Jenkins. Studio Museum curator Christine Y. Kim praises his “unapologetic hybridization of work, play, and art. He’s discussed having been a hairdresser in South Central, using the same backdrops and aesthetic languages as that subculture—yet it complements his painting.”
GEDI SIBONY, sculpture
With his sensitive handling of hollow-core doors and commercial carpet, Gedi Sibony is one of several young Biennial artists doing exciting things with sculpture. “I have a family history with these materials; my father was a contractor,” says the 32-year-old New Yorker. His playful transformations of crude elements—like foam insulation surrounded by silver-painted twigs—have led critics to compare him to Richard Tuttle, though he’s also inspired by Bruce Nauman’s early sculptures and Rauschenberg’s Combines. In 2004, Sibony made his solo debut at the Lower East Side gallery Canada; since then, he’s made ArtReview’s list of top emerging artists and turned up in group shows all over town. “He has an eloquence in his economy of means that is really exceptional, especially in New York, where there is a lot more bombastic work,” says SculptureCenter curator Anthony Huberman.
JOSEPHINE MECKSEPER, installation
Like some bizarre hybrid Of Lucky and Mother Jones, Josephine Meckseper’s installations place protest imagery and artifacts into mock magalog layouts and boutique displays. In her recent show at Elizabeth Dee Gallery, Constructivist manifestos mingled with Palestinian head scarves and homemade Super-8 footage of the September 2005 antiwar rally in Washington. “Her work dovetails with a renewed interest in art that’s made politically, as opposed to political art,” says White Columns director Matthew Higgs. The 41-year-old German-born artist, who’s currently preparing a large-scale installation for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Léon, Spain, says she’s neither an activist nor a detached observer at the demonstrations she films. “I’m an artist and documentarian. It’s a reflective role—active but not ideological.”
TRISHA DONNELLY, conceptual/performance
Trisha Donnelly rode into the opening of her first New York show on horseback in a Napoleonic uniform, read a short declaration of surrender, and abruptly departed. In this and other demonstrations—involving rain dances, howling wolves, and exhortations to “stand against time”—the 31-year-old San Francisco artist has redefined the art experience as a fleeting moment of transcendence, with the artist as an elusive guide. Donnelly’s now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t approach hasn’t stopped curators from including her in their programs (the Carnegie International, the upcoming Berlin Biennial, etc.). “She really revived the ephemeral and the performative act,” says MoMA’s Klaus Biesenbach. On the Whitney’s fourth floor, listen carefully for Donnelly’s audio piece, which she describes as “a reversed sound … like the strange sound of the tsunami, when the wave pulled back.”
LISA LAPINSKI, installation
A onetime philosophy student who’s willing to get her hands dirty, Lisa Lapinski makes elaborate sculptures that embody a kind of cognitive dissonance. Nightstand, a room-size construction debuting in the Biennial, implodes and reconfigures traditional Shaker furniture to suggest the frenzied, psychedelic outbursts of religious ecstasy found in Shaker gift drawings. The piece, her most ambitious project to date, took more than a year to complete; to acquire the skills necessary to build it out of walnut, Lapinski entered a woodworking program at a junior college outside L.A. “The retired engineers felt sorry for me, because it took me so long to catch on,” she says, laughing, “but I can build my own kitchen cabinets now.” It’s an unusually workmanlike approach for an artist whose solo shows, at Richard Telles in L.A., have referenced Rimbaud and Wittgenstein. Artforum critic Bruce Hainley credits the 38-year-old, who received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2004, with “providing new thought about what sculpture might be.”
ANTHONY BURDIN, performance
A self-described “recording artist” who typically goes on tour without getting out of his car (a 1973 Chevy Nova he’s lived in for years), Californian Anthony Burdin stole the show at the 2004 Frieze art fair with an unscheduled performance at dealer Michele Maccarone’s booth. In his videos, taken mostly from a car as he drives at high speed, Burdin sings along to Blue Öyster Cult and other classic rockers; live, he accompanies his artwork with drums, guitar, and vocals that have been described as “the wheezing of an asthmatic derelict.” Pop music may not be his calling—he programmed a radio station in the nineties, though he never did a broadcast—but with back-to-back shows at the Whitney and the Berlin Biennial, this voodoo child (who won’t reveal his age or sit for portraits) seems poised to make it as an art star. White Columns director Matthew Higgs calls Burdin “one of the most interesting maverick artists working anywhere in the world—his work is so dark and gothic, yet it’s made under the clear blue skies of California.”